ALADDIN a Magical Musical Delight Now Thru Jan 7
On the menu of tales as old as time, Disney's Aladdin is definitely dessert, sugary sweet and delicious, but light on substance - which makes it perfect for a night of glitz (who doesn't love sequins), campy laughs and magic conjured up before your very eyes. If you're looking for a holiday confectionary delight then get prepared to be dazzled by Aladdin, playing now through January 7, 2018, at San Francisco's Orpheum theatre.
Based on the 1992 Disney animated movie, the book by Chad Beguelin is played for laughs, while the sets, costumes and magical effects are delightfully designed to enchant and solicit big oohs and aahs. It's a westernized version of the Aladdin story and takes place in the fictional Middle Eastern city of Agrabah.
There, in Bob Crowley's beautiful, desert-hued Marketplace teeming with visual delights, an orphaned Aladdin (Bay area native Adam Jacobs) is doing his best to survive by stealing, lying and staying "One Jump Ahead" of the law. He's aided in his endeavors by three friends, Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Philippe Arroyo) and Kassim (Mike Longo) who replace Abu, the monkey sidekick from the movie. They're hilarious, though with their New York accents they seem more like a lite version of the Jets from West Side Story than Middle Eastern natives. When Aladdin meets the girl of his dreams in the marketplace, he doesn't realize that she's Princess Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla) until he's almost arrested. Saved at the last minute by her father's Grand Vizier, Jafar (Jonathan Weir is wickedly vile) and his minion Iago (Michael Bullard, wickedly comedic), Aladdin gratefully does Jafar's bidding by fetching a lamp for him from the gold-plated Cave of Wonders.
As in the movie, the crowning glory of the musical is Genie (played to perfection by Korie Lee Blossey the night I attended) who makes his appearance after Aladdin rubs the lamp, releasing him from his captivity, though not from his role as wish granter. What follows is the infectious cast song, "Friend Like Me," led by the exuberant Blossey. The large cast, directed by Casey Nicholaw, who did double-duty as choreographer (and received a Tony nomination for his efforts) is superb.
The pageantry and magic continue as Aladdin uses his wishes to win the heart and hand of Princess Jasmine, much to the consternation of Jafar. The most enchanted moment of the musical is the magic carpet ride and the lush song "A Whole New World," by Tim Rice (lyrics) and Alan Menken (music). What a show-stopper.
With the money and magic of Disney behind it, this show comes all but wrapped up in a glitzy bow. Despite, it's lightness of being, it really is magical and the perfect holiday fare. Life is short; eat dessert first.
Book by Chad Beguelin
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Tim Rice, Howard Ashman and Beguelin
Through Jan. 7, 2018
San Francisco SHN Orpheum Theatre
Photo courtesy of Deen VanMeer